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I wrote to Lionel tech support about whether or not it was still possible to update the older Legacy boards with DCC compatibility. I am aware that this was done several years ago for a gentleman (whose name is escaping me) who performed scale wheel and coupler conversions of Y-3's. Katie replied that if I removed 2 of the circuit boards and sent them in, they would do it for $50 plus shipping. I have 4 U33c's, a Challenger and a Y-3 for which I would like to do this. I have pulled out the 2 boards on one U33c and am awaiting a response on to whom to send these and how to make payment.

If it works, I'll do the same to the rest.

If not, I have at least one of them, the U33c from which I have pulled the boards, that I will strip of the Lionel electronics and install my own decoder. I'd prefer not to do this because plugging back in a couple of boards and spending only $50 is much more attractive than the other route. Not to mention that getting smoke unit functionality is tricky with DCC.

I'll keep everyone posted on how this goes.

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Chuck, I'd certainly be interested if the modification also allows older Legacy locomotives to operate on DC as well as AC. I would convert two U33Cs, a Challenger, and a Mikado if that were the case; but I suspect the change is more than just software to allow DC operation. Fred Rouse was the person who converted the Y-3s to scale operation.

@TOKELLY posted:

Chuck, I'd certainly be interested if the modification also allows older Legacy locomotives to operate on DC as well as AC. I would convert two U33Cs, a Challenger, and a Mikado if that were the case; but I suspect the change is more than just software to allow DC operation. Fred Rouse was the person who converted the Y-3s to scale operation.

Nope, it's just software.  However, it is sort of power supply sensitive.

When we were testing the DCC and DC functions back in 2011, DC worked fine with my ancient MRC Controlmaster V and GML throttle (who apparently closed shop this past January,) but not well with some of the newer MRC power packs.  The guys over at Electric Railroad Company bent over backwards to be compatible, but there are apparently too many variations in DC power supplies.

For DCC, ERR also had to test with 5 or 6 different DCC systems to ensure compatibility.

Rusty

Last edited by Rusty Traque

John Z., formerly of Lionel worked with a few of us as Beta testers to work on the DCC compatibility back in the day. Rusty and I were both helping out as I recall. John even shipped me a unit that allowed flashing the software as updates were released. I still have it.

Having said that, I’m going to do what Bruk did... order an RCDR board from the legacy berk and install it on my Challenger. Although everything I own will be DCC compatible at that point I’ve really come to prefer Legacy over DCC. I just need Lionel to make a bunch of new Legacy diesels and I’ll just stick with Legacy :-)

Bruk, I saw your post, but I wasn't sure if you meant that the RCDR board from the Legacy Berkshire would be electronically and physically compatible with the U33Cs, Mikados, and Challengers to allow them to operate on both DC and DCC as well as Legacy AC operating systems. If it means simply swapping out the old board for an updated one, that should be relatively easy. (The early U33Cs and Mikados are TMCC and not Legacy locomotives, so there may be incompatibilities that would prohibit conversions to DC/DCC without some serious modifications.)  Like Jonathan, I am happy with the Legacy system but find that running everything on DC is often quicker and easier for short sessions. For now I have to isolate those older Legacy/TMCC locomotives when the track blocks are powered by DC.

Lionel still has not posted parts for Legacy Berkshires on their parts web site. Do you have a part number for the Legacy Berkshire RCDR board and an approximate cost? Thanks for the tip.

Terry

Last edited by TOKELLY

If you own a “older” S scale loco that has “LEGACY” and if you look up parts for it and it contains a BEMC board. I would verify this before. But all you have to do is replace it with the RCDR (radio board) from the latest S scale Berkshires.

At this point in time you would have to contact Lionel to have that added to the parts site. I suspect pricing to be the same as a “standard” RCDR.

I think LEGACY is a good system. But its not user adjustable like DCC. I will always say go DCC if you want to customize the way your trains run and sound.

Given Bruk's successful experiment with replacing the RCDR board, I am not going to bother sending the 2 boards to Lionel for firmware updates. Ordering parts from them is much easier than getting them to respond to requests. I have been waiting weeks for a response. So up next I'll be searching the parts site for RCDR boards for DCC compatible Legacy locos.

There were only three Legacy locomotives that were not capable of DCC prior to the ES44AC models introduced in the 2013 catalogue: the 2010 Challengers that were compatible with conventional AC/TMCC/Legacy ; the 2012 SD70ACe models that were AC/DC/TMCC/Legacy compatible; and the 2012 Y-3 locomotives that were also compatible with AC/DC/TMCC/Legacy although Lionel was not aware of DC compatibility until it was brought to their attention. The Y-3, however, had its tender headlight on when moving forward and off in reverse when operated with DC current.

I suspect that only the SD70ACes and the Y-3s would add DCC compatibility with the replacement of the RCDR board. The Legacy Challengers would need other, significant modifications for DCC compatibility as would the TMCC-only early U33Cs and the Mikados.

@TOKELLY posted:

There were only three Legacy locomotives that were not capable of DCC prior to the ES44AC models introduced in the 2013 catalogue: the 2010 Challengers that were compatible with conventional AC/TMCC/Legacy ; the 2012 SD70ACe models that were AC/DC/TMCC/Legacy compatible; and the 2012 Y-3 locomotives that were also compatible with AC/DC/TMCC/Legacy

My 2012 SD70Ace operates fine on DCC.

Also, all U33c's are Legacy but lack DCC.  I have 4 spanning all generations of these. I am ordering 4 RCDR boards from the recent U36C'S and will be installing them in these.

@TOKELLY posted:

There were only three Legacy locomotives that were not capable of DCC prior to the ES44AC models introduced in the 2013 catalogue: the 2010 Challengers that were compatible with conventional AC/TMCC/Legacy ; the 2012 SD70ACe models that were AC/DC/TMCC/Legacy compatible; and the 2012 Y-3 locomotives that were also compatible with AC/DC/TMCC/Legacy although Lionel was not aware of DC compatibility until it was brought to their attention. The Y-3, however, had its tender headlight on when moving forward and off in reverse when operated with DC current.

I suspect that only the SD70ACes and the Y-3s would add DCC compatibility with the replacement of the RCDR board. The Legacy Challengers would need other, significant modifications for DCC compatibility as would the TMCC-only early U33Cs and the Mikados.

The 2012 SD70ACe's were the first Flyer locomotives to have DCC.  The pressure was on to have the code downloaded before they were shipped.

Rusty

@TOKELLY posted:

Lionel still has not posted parts for Legacy Berkshires on their parts web site. Do you have a part number for the Legacy Berkshire RCDR board and an approximate cost? Thanks for the tip.

Terry

FWIW, I inquired of Lionel as to Legacy Berk parts lists just this past Tuesday:

"Unfortunately, we do not have this parts breakdown at this time and don’t currently have an estimated time frame for availability.

Have a great day,"

I stand corrected. I was looking through the catalogues and not referring to the owner's manuals. I missed the information about U33Cs being "Legacy-controlled" that is in both the catalogue and the manual and the fact that SD70ACes are DCC compatible--a fact not mentioned in the 2012 catalogue but does appear on the cover of the owner's manual. The owner's manual for the Y-3 warns that use of DC on that locomotive may harm sensitive electronics, but that locomotive DOES operate on straight DC current. (Lionel catalogues are not the most reliable source of information, and I apologize for my relying on them.)

If the RCDC boards from the U36Cs would add both DC and DCC compatibility to the first issue of the U33Cs (with their faster gearing than subsequent versions), I would also replace the boards in those older units for greater compatibility. I'll rely on your experience, Chuck, to see if that is possible. For now, even I don't trust what I write!

Terry

It will be interesting to see what Chuck discovers in swapping the boards. I run only with Legacy so DCC compatibility is not currently a concern. I do have a bunch of the newer U36 engines along with two of the first generation U33's. The differences are extensive. A scale 45mph is speed step 12 on the U33, speed step 45 on the U36. For comparison, the Big Boy with its absolute speed steps, 45 SMPH is at speed step 70. The U36 has a greatly improved smoke unit, a better sound set with more features and the IR sensors to communicate with the LCS sensor tracks. It also as noted is DC and DCC compatible.

The Results

I received my 4 RCDR receiver boards (part number 691RCDR133).  This part is listed for the U36c’s.  I purchased it because all U36c’s have come with DCC as do U33c’s from the 2018 Vol. 2 catalog and beyond.  

I had good results on 4 locomotives.  The board fit and enabled DCC operations in the following:

  • Two U33c’s from the 2012 Vol. 1 catalog
  • A U33c from the 2012 Vol. 2 catalog
  • Y-3

However, it did not fit my main target of this exercise, a U33c from the 2009 catalog (the first run of U33c’s).  The board on the right in the photo (691RCDR110) is the one from this locomotive, and you can see that the female pin connectors are different from the new board on the left.  I’d be happy to get some male connectors that fit the new board and attach the wires from the loco to it, but the labels on the pins are different between boards.

 

Therefore, it appears there is no way to convert the 2009 models just by replacing the RCDR.  So for this one, I am going back to trying to get Lionel to respond to my inquiry.  As mentioned above, they had previously informed me I could send in both the RCDR and the BEMC boards for firmware updates for $50.  However, I have been waiting over a month for them to respond to emails asking to who do I send them and how do they want me to make payment.

It also did not work for the Challenger.  I learned that these do not have RCDR boards but rather R4LC receiver boards.

Lastly, regarding Terry’s question about DC operation with the newer RCDR’s, I could not get a loco to operate.  Lights came on, but no sound or movement when applying DC current.

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Thanks for the work and the information, Chuck. I was hoping for more encouraging news. Lionel probably makes more money selling new products than trying to keep parts for upgrades of older product. It may also prove to be an annoyance when unskilled customers look for help when trying to put a locomotive together. (Like watches, it's easy to take a locomotive apart. Getting it together again without leftover parts sitting around is more difficult.)

Terry

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